Proud to Be: A Native American Ad That Wasn’t Aired During the 2014 Super Bowl

Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor

Here is one ad that never aired during this year’s Super Bowl:

The Proud to Be video was made by Change the Mascot, a national campaign that was launched by the Oneida Nation. The video was released by the National Congress of American Indians a couple of days before this year’s Super Bowl. Change the Mascot’s aim is to end the use of the term “redskins” as the mascot for Washington, D. C.’s NFL team. The campaign “calls upon the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell to do the right thing and bring an end the use of the racial epithet.”

Not being a wealthy organization, the National Congress of American Indians couldn’t afford to “buy a television slot during the Super Bowl to run its ad.”

Writing for ThinkProgress on January 31, 2014, Alyssa Rosenberg said the following:

It’s a gorgeous ad, and it’s a strikingly effective illustration of why the word “Redskin” is so troublesome. It’s not just that the term has evolved from its origins as a basic explanation of physical difference, to a slur that was used to reduce Native Americans to the value of their skins, for which literal bounties were offered. In a less violent but no less significant sense, “Redskin” collapses the remarkable particularity of Native American experiences into a single identity and set of attributes.

The NCAI ad is a forceful and often beautiful reminder that Native Americans aren’t a monolithic community. That’s a term that subsumes hundreds of specific identities, a huge range of cultural and artistic practices–and yes, as the ad doesn’t neglect to leave out–specific sets of social and political issues.

“Native American” may be a blanket identity category, but it’s one that invites curiosity, asking hearers to consider what came before the political and territorial consolidation of the United States, and the fact that American identity is rich and multifaceted, rather than a single way of being. “Redskins” is both a slur, and a term that invites the listener to skip over the work of thinking about what it means. “Redskin” reduces Native Americans to simply the color of their skin, and to the attributes we associate with football (a practice that’s also a product of a very specific marketing history, as my colleague Travis Waldron reported in his epic look at the fight against the Washington football team’s name): physical strength, maybe speed, and not much else. Not only is that kind of thinking profoundly lazy and racially reductive, it’s a tragedy both for the people who are subjected to it, and the people who deny themselves the experience of more of the world by practicing it.

The NCAI ad is a reminder of precisely what they’re missing out on, making all of these points without having to spell them out the way I do here. That’s great advertising, in service of a critically important message.

Last May, Daniel Snyder, owner of Washington, D. C.’s NFL team was quoted as saying, “We will never change the name of the team.” He then repeated himself when a reporter followed-up on his comment, “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”

Then last June, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that the Washington Redskins‘ nickname was a “unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect.”

Clem Ironwing (Sioux) doesn’t think the word “redskin” is a term of respect. In 1996, he spoke at a public hearing in Wichita, Kansas, on the subject of Wichita North High School’s sports mascot. He talked to those present at the hearing about having been removed from his family by the government when he was a young child and forced to live in a Catholic boarding school. Matthew Richter posted the comments that Ironwing made at the hearing. Here is an excerpt of what Clem Ironwing said:

“When my hair was cut short by the priests, I was called a “redskin” and a savage. When I spoke my native tongue, I was beaten and called “redskin”. When I tried to follow the spiritual path of my people, I was again beaten and called a “redskin”. I was told by them to turn my back on the ways of my people, or I would forever be nothing but a dirty “redskin”.

           “The only way “redskin” was ever used towards my people and myself was in a derogatory manner. It was never, ever, used in a show of respect or kindness. It was only used to let you know that you were dirty and no good, and to this day still is.

Is it time to change the mascot? What do you think?

Submitted by Elaine Magliaro

The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers.  As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.


Change the Mascot Website

Wichita North Redskins “Remarks by Clem Ironwing, Sioux, during a public Mascot/Identity Committee hearing.” (The People’s Path)

House Dem: ‘Redskins’ as offensive to Indians as ‘N’ word is to blacks (The Hill)

An open letter to Dan Snyder (Grantland)

The Harmful Psychological Effects of the Washington Football Mascot (Change the Mascot)

American Indian Boarding Schools Haunt Many (NPR)

Why ‘NEVER’ Abandoning ‘Redskins’ As His Team’s Name Might Soon Cost Dan Snyder A Lot Of Money (ThinkProgress)

Redskins, NFL Take Heat From Congress Over Team Name (Only a Game)

Members of Congress urge Redskins to change name (Big Story)

Read Roger Goodell’s Letter To Congress Defending The Redskins Name (DeadSpin)

NFL is ‘listening’ to those who oppose Redskins’ name, Roger Goodell says (Washington Post)

A slur or term of ‘honor’? Controversy heightens about Washington Redskins (CNN)

Native Americans Tackle Redskins at Press Conference: On the heels of an NFL conference, the Oneida Indian Nation confronts the organization for its use of what the deem a racial slur as a mascot (Time)

Bob Lutz: North High, it’s time to change the nickname (The Wichita Eagle)

The Other Redskins (Capital News Service)

Hundreds rally in Minn. against Redskins’ name (Yahoo/AP)

The Super Bowl Ad You Never Saw (Huffington Post)

ICTMN Exclusive: NCAI Releases R-word Video Ahead of Super Bowl (Indian Country Today Media Network)

Monk, Green: Mull name change (ESPN)


National Congress Of American Indians Releases Anti-Redskins Ad (Deadspin)

Here’s an ad about R–skins that its makers don’t have the money to show during Sunday’s Superbowl (Daily Kos)

The Best Ad You’ll See This Super Bowl Weekend (ThinkProgress)

The Epic Battle To Save The Most Offensive Team Name In Professional Sports (ThinkProgress)

Roger Goodell defends Washington Redskins’ nickname (NFL)

248 thoughts on “Proud to Be: A Native American Ad That Wasn’t Aired During the 2014 Super Bowl”

  1. When I initially commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added”
    checkbox and now each time a comment is added I
    get several e-mails with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove
    people from that service? Bless you!

  2. May I just say what a relief to discover someone who truly understands what they are
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  3. In day to day life, the well known football players are
    becoming a role model to motivate the youths.

    Fans and media members who think the football Bedlam Series is
    a premiere rivalry. I guess a handful of suspensions was enough
    to satisfy the NCAA.

  4. If someone else got offended or If someone else wanted something changed it would have been done in a blink of an eye (just saying)………. I am Cherokee and proud!

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  6. It HAS to be Constitutionally acceptable to call them “Redskins.” For @ least the 257th time. Maybe this time is the charm?

  7. annie,

    I thought the point that some people were trying to make is that it should be PA (politically acceptable) to refer to certain human beings as “redskins.”

  8. Darren, Just my point! Then why do PCers feel compelled to constantly change the “proper name” for them. In my lifetime the “proper” name for black people has changed times! Malcolm X got it right w/ “black.” And, if you listen to his eloquent reason why, almost all people will agree.

  9. Scott Walker signs Indian mascot bill, informs tribes of reasoning in letter
    JESSICA VANEGEREN | The Capital Times |

    Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed the controversial Indian mascot bill into law Thursday, but not before informing state tribal leaders in a letter earlier in the day of his impending action.

    In the letter, Walker stated “I share many of your concerns about some of the mascots and nicknames used in Wisconsin and across America. If it were up to me personally, I would seek viable alternatives that were not offensive to Native Americans.”

    But the governor detailed his concerns that the previous law, whose provisions are largely rolled back by the new law, infringed on free speech rights.

    “If the state bans speech that is offensive to some, where does it stop?” Walker stated. “A person or persons’ right to speak does not end just because what they say or how they say it is offensive.”

    Barbara Munson, a spokeswoman with the Wisconsin Indian Education Association “Indian” Logo and Mascot task force, called his decision to sign the bill into law “egregious.”

    “This is a poke in the eye with a sharp stick to all of the tribes and all of our children,” Munson said Thursday afternoon.

    She added, “Attorneys are discussing this as we speak.”

    On Wednesday, Chris Ahmuty, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, called Walker’s use of the First Amendment to protect the use of race-based mascots “bogus.”

    Like Ahmuty, Munson again pointed out that the First Amendment does not allow government programs or government bodies to offend or discriminate through their policies and school districts count as government bodies.

    “Why are they teaching our children to participate in and tolerate race-based stereotyping?” Munson asked. “Learning environments should not put up barriers that harm an entire race of people. The bill goes way beyond repeal of Act 250. It is an example of institutionalized racism.”

  10. If the Indian Mascot Could Speak: A Poem

    A group of Native American college students are taking on the Native American mascot controversy through poetry.
    By Amy Stretten – 01/15/2014

    Savage Media, created by a group of Native American students at Dartmouth College, published a video this week to call for an end to Native American mascots. Through the delivery of a poem, Preston Wells, of the Choctaw Nation and a junior at Dartmouth College, imagines what the Indian mascot–a fictitious, yet familiar caricature–would say if he could speak.

    Supporters of Indian mascots “tell us to feel honored,” Wells said over the phone. “It’s not like they’re doing this knowing that it’s offensive. It’s a Native American trope and it’s not just with sports mascots. It’s a stereotype that bleeds into other areas. It’s just so ridiculously offensive, that it’s almost comedic. You almost have to laugh so it doesn’t affect you.”

    Here’s an excerpt from the poem:

    Usually people call me ‘Chief’ because you make me dance in front of thousands.

    Stack a headdress on me like bricks.

    Suffocate me in buckskin like sweat–cold and heavy.

    I have been worn for too long.

    You’ll take off that shirt at day’s end, but when will it be my turn?

    It’s hard to breathe on cotton. Just another form of relocation.

    Throw me in with your dirty clothes, do your laundry.

    Wash me good enough to wipe my bravery weak.

    I am hurting…

    Wells produced the piece to highlight how “fake” Indian mascots are and to differentiate who real–living, breathing Native peoples–are from the Hollywood construct.

    “When I tell someone I’m Native, the only image they ever know of is the Indian mascot,” Wells said. “Sometimes it leads them to asking me really stereotypical questions. If we get rid of [the Indian mascot], then we can have more sovereignty over our images.”

  11. “Are you PCers talking about gay Indians, Native American, indigenous people or gay black, colored, Negro, Afro-American, African American, people of color”
    We were talking about human beings.

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